Gritty Ryan Hartman fitting Hawks mold — a grinder who can score

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Blackhawks forward Ryan Hartman (38, red jersey) celebrates a goal that went off his hip and into the net to give the Hawks a 3-2 lead over the Nashville Predators in the third period Sunday night. Hartman added two empty-net goals in the Hawks’ 5-2 victory. Predators defenders Kevin Fiala (56) and Yannick Weber are helpless as goalie Pekka Rinne (35) lies prone on the ice. (Nam Y. Huh/AP)

There was nothing greasy about the game-tying goal gritty, gutty Ryan Hartman scored against the Sabres on Thursday night.

The Blackhawks rookie forward made a nifty move along the boards to split two defenders, then fired a wrist shot from the left circle to beat Sabres goalie Andres Nilsson to the top right corner of the net for a highlight-reel play, even adding a touch of Bobby Orr at the end — flying horizontal in the air on his follow-through.

“I’ve made plays like that in my junior career and even down in Rockford,” Hartman said. “Being up here, there seem to be more grittier goals, shots on net. [But] there’s definitely flashes of it. It’s nice to be rewarded on one like that. Sometimes you make a move and get to the net and you don’t end up finishing it off and it’s kind of for nothing.

“But that’s not necessarily my game. I’m more [about] getting the puck, being in front of the net, taking the puck to the net.”

It didn’t take long for Hartman to prove his point. In a 2-2 game against the Predators on Sunday night, he scored the greasiest of goals when Richard Panik’s shot in front of the net popped into the air and deflected off Hartman’s hip. Hartman added two empty-net goals for his first career hat trick in a 5-2 victory that gave the Hawks their third consecutive victory after a stretch of five losses in six games (1-4-1).

“I think goals like [Sunday night] are a little more like me,” Hartman said. “I don’t know about the other night [against the Sabres]. It’s nice to get a couple of those where you don’t really use your stick and they kind of go off you.”

One of the hallmarks of the Hawks success under Joel Quenneville is having scorers who can grind and grinders who can score. That Hartman can do both — grind and finish — has helped propel him to the top of the Hawks’ 2016-17 rookie class. Hartman has 10 goals and seven assists with a plus-eight rating in 38 games. He’s tied for fourth among NHL rookies in goals and plus-minus.

“He’s playing such a complete game,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “He’s playing that hard-nosed, gritty hockey where he’s working hard. He’s getting pucks back. He’s making things easier on his linemates.”

And he can finish.

“He’s getting his skill involved and showing it off,” Toews said. “That goal [against the Sabres] — you don’t see too many like that. He got himself through a defenseman and was able to use his shot. I think we all know he can put the puck in when he gets the chance, so it’s nice to see him playing the way he is.”

Hartman unofficially inherited the Andrew Shaw role after Shaw signed with the Canadiens in free agency. While it’s difficult to exactly quantify the impact of Shaw, there’s little doubt that Hartman is filling that role well. At this point last season, Shaw had six goals and 10 assists with a plus-five and 33 penalty minutes in 43 games. Hartman has more goals, fewer assists and a better plus-minus, with fewer penalty minutes (14) in 38 games.

“He’s been a big player for us this year and he’s been very productive,” forward Patrick Kane said. “He plays a good style of hockey that we’ve kind of been missing for a little bit. He’s physical, he draws penalties and it seems like he’s always on the puck. He’s had a great season so far.”

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